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Today's trust tip: Use labels for investigations, fact-checks and feature stories

Hi there. Joy here.

Lynn wrote last week about clearly labeling opinion content, and the week before we looked at how we describe our solutions journalism. I'm going to expand that conversation today to include other kinds of labels. Beyond opinion coverage, it can smooth the news consumption process to tell people what to expect. 

And labels don't have to be formal (like a word in all caps at the top of the page). Think creatively about how and where to signal the type of content you're offering (on every platform you're offering it).

Start with content you know your audience wants. Do they know you're offering it?

INVESTIGATIONS: We know from user research that news consumers value depth. So why do journalists so often share in-depth work on social media in the same way they would a short daily story? Put the word "investigation" in your headlines, like USA TODAY did here. Or indicate how long you've been following an issue, like WCPO did here. And get credit for your work with words like "exclusive" and "exposed," like WUSA did here

FACT-CHECKS: If your audience wants you to hold people accountable, it can be valuable to use words that alert them that that's what you're doing. The word "fact-check" can go at the front of a headline, like the Coloradoan did here. Or it can go in the chatter of a social post if that works better for you. 

LIGHTER STORIES: Journalists sometimes get pushback when they cover things that don't feel like "real news." Without the design cues of print products or the shift in tone on air, it can be tough for online readers to know what they're being offered. One Coloradoan reporter was used to hearing from readers about stories that sometimes felt frivolous. She tried putting a note at the top of some stories explaining their purpose, and she said that cut down on the negative feedback. One read:
"This is a first-person perspective by reporter Erin Udell. She covers art, entertainment and fun in Fort Collins. She also enjoys answering the occasional silly question."

For more examples of labeling content, see this collection at And if you missed last week's look at labeling opinion content, find it here.

TRY THIS: Think about what types of stories get misunderstood most. Where does your audience maybe miss the point (like with lighter feature stories)? Or what might they not give you credit for (like going deep on an issue) that could be fixed with labeling? Then think about how you could send more direct cues. Add clearer wording to your headlines, social chatter, newsletter invitations and on-air intros.

— Joy Mayer, Trusting News director

What does your community not understand about your work? Our trust coaches can help you explain your processes with free one-on-one coaching. Find out what we can help you with and sign up here.

Trusting News aims to demystify trust in news and empower journalists to take responsibility for actively demonstrating credibility and earning trust. It is a project of the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the American Press Institute

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